Rob Sinclair enthusiastically referred to it as “The Show.”
That show was the LaBatt Brier in Winnipeg last week—by far the biggest curling showcase in Canada. And the Northern Ontario reps hailing from the Port Arthur Curling Club in Thunder Bay were front and centre with some of the very best curlers in the country.
And they didn’t look out of place one bit.
“At the Brier you’re treated like royalty,” said Sinclair, a Fort Frances native who threw third stones with the Bruce Melville rink. “It’s very prestigious.
“We just got the taste of it in our mouths and now we want to go back,” he added.
Despite finishing the round-robin out of the playoffs with a 6-5 record, including two straight losses on the final day, Sinclair said their rink was very close to finishing in the top third of the heap.
In fact, he said it was a fine line between playoff contenders and pretenders.
“Our goal was to make the playoffs but I thought we could have gone 8-3 or 9-2 if things had happened a little differently,” Sinclair, 34, said yesterday afternoon from the Ogden day care centre in Thunder Bay where he works as an educator.
“We just didn’t have the curling gods on our side,” he joked.
This year’s Brier didn’t have some of the big names like in years past. In fact, no former champions were in the field this year—and eight of the 12 skips had never played in a Brier before.
But it did boast several high-calibre teams, stressed Sinclair, including eventual champion Wayne Middaugh of Ontario.
“It was still a strong field, maybe not like years past, but the media should have played [up they hype] as who the teams had to beat to get there rather than the “no-name” Brier,” he said.
Sinclair said the “turning point” for them came when they lost a heart-breaking 7-6 decision to Nova Scotia in Thursday morning’s draw, which was followed by a 6-4 loss to Quebec that afternoon, dashing Northern Ontario’s playoff hopes.
Still, it was a whirlwind ride for the Thunder Bay foursome in just their second season curling together.
Sinclair, and second Dale Wiersema (formerly of Atikokan), who have been curling partners for the past seven years, moved over from the Fort William Curling Club to join up with Melville, who at 50 was the oldest Brier participant, and lead Larry Rathje.
The move definitely paid off, with the rink reaching the Brier after nipping two-time Canadian and world champ Al Hackner 7-6 in the final of the Northern Ontario playdowns.
And the Brier experience was heightened for the quartet by the fact many of their friends and family were on hand at the Winnipeg Arena to cheer their every shot—good or bad.
“Our [fan] support was incredible,” enthused Sinclair. “We heard them out there cheering for us all week.”